Cleverley was one of three players over the age of 21 allowed to appear in the United team and he produced an impressive performance which allowed him to get some much needed confidence under his belt.
Cleverley was recently dropped form the Manchester United first team, with Wayne Rooney dropping into his position and Phil Jones also being used alongside Michael Carrick in the middle of the first team.
The reasons for his absence seem a little unclear but Cleverley was starting to suffer in the United first team, with many pointing him out as a weakness in the side which seems to have prompted Sir Alex Ferguson into protecting him.
It may also have been the case that he was starting to suffer a little bit of fatigue after a long season, but it was a shrewd move, not an insulting one, for Ferguson to send him to the Under-21 side.
In that team he is one of the most senior players and it allows him to not only get some form back, but to also experience the pressure of being viewed as a leader by a group of younger players.
His performance in the 1-0 victory over West Brom was not his best because he neither set up Larnell Cole’s goal or scored himself, but he got a solid 90 minutes under his belt and didn’t make any mistakes.
That’s what Ferguson would have been hoping for and a direct assist or a goal would have just amplified the positive effect of Cleverley going into the younger side and dominating the middle of the team.
It was also a chance for him to impose himself on the middle of the pitch, which is not something that opposition teams have allowed him to do very often this season.
His potential in a United shirt makes him an instant target in Ferguson’s team so the opposition double their efforts to stop him having any influence over a game in any competition.
Real Madrid shut him down superbly during the recent Champions League clash, which allowed them to focus on Michael Carrick and containing United’s main attacking players.
Alexander Buttner also played in the same Under-21 side, it’s just a simple way for the boss to keep his players fit and it’s been much more effective for Cleverley than having him sat on the bench routinely and not used.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Cleverley’s recent absence from United’s first team means his career at Old Trafford is over. It’s not. This has been a tactic deliberately engineered by Ferguson to ensure he maintains his focus ahead of next season.
Cleverley is good enough to hold a regular place in the midfield of the senior side. He’s just getting games under his belt and improving his confidence with the Under-21s.
Do you expect to see him back in the first team soon?
image: © eschipul